november 21

The boys are obsessed with Monopoly.

This week has been Thanksgiving vacation, because I said so. Jameson was thrilled when I told him so on Monday morning, and ran off singing, “I don’t have to do any Ma-ath!” Of course, he then proceeded to set out Monopoly, and has been adding and subtracting ever since. Don’t tell him how much ma-ath he’s doing, okay?

Yes, three mornings in a row. Extending long into the day, when Mama allows. (And a “new” corner, after I went on a little rearranging spree last night.)

Two days of just trying to get things crossed off has resulted in… well, not much. Ha! But regardless of how much gets “done”, there is always living that happens. I think I’m really starting to learn and appreciate that fact. Of course, waking up to a house in a cloud really helps one to just focus on the things (and lives) right here. I think I could use a few more cloud-wrapped days!

Our little house on a hill is wrapped in cloud this morning.

I rearranged lamps last night. And bookshelves. Bringing “cozy” into our home is one of my favorite things, and the highlight of the colder, darker months. Summer living happens outside, and the house becomes nothing more than the refueling station. But now, in these short days and long nights, fireplaces and chairs with afghans and books readily at hand — those things shine. Of course, those things are only tools: What’s really happening is an invitation to come, be together, pause, laugh, talk, rest.

The sun, trying its best.

We are talking about thankfulness lately. (Of course.) Thankfulness is enjoying quite the rise in popularity, as t-shirts and throw pillows and cross-stitched wall hangings remind us to love friends, be thankful for friends, count our blessings, and generally be positive about life. This all reminds me of something I read several years ago: The thing about thankfulness is that it inherently requires a recipient. When the pillow encourages you to “be thankful for family and friends”, who is it you’re thanking?

I want my children to not just see me being positive about the good things in life, but to hear me thanking God for His many blessings. My thank yous need to be addressed to the Giver, not some black hole of positivism.

This song is a favorite, and I’ve been appreciating the reminder to be vocal with praise and thanks.


It’s summer. And so far, it’s been gorgeous. Warm, sunny days, the smell of fresh cut grass (okay, okay, AND fertilized fields), just enough rain, and vast amounts of green space. Boy, I sure missed the space.

Summer also means:

:: first boxes from the CSA. It feels like I had to wait forever (because I did!), but I guess that made it all the more fun to see boxes and boxes of huge, beautiful heads of lettuce. When I arrived at the pick-up site on Friday morning, bright and early, the excitement around that table was palpable. Like Christmas morning with a bunch of kids — except it was June, we were adults, and the excitement was about cabbage. I think you have to live in the frozen tundra of Upstate New York to truly appreciate the beauty of radishes and baby carrots.

:: slipping out of the house before 7 in work clothes and gardening gloves. I can get more done in those uninterrupted 30 minutes than I do the rest of the day. Unless you count refereeing light saber wars as “getting more done.” Also, I don’t know why I’m constantly berating myself for my lack of exercise, since working in my vegetable garden means running up and down a huge hill to check on why the boys are screaming, where they’ve disappeared to, how much dirt they’ve tracked through the house, etc. I’m pretty sure sprinting uphill is exercise, right?

:: watching my first attempts at gardening. And reminding myself to be stalwart, resilient, ready to do better next year. I’ve already learned several things: When you’re in the last 30 minutes of planting, and your baby is screaming his head off because he’s wanted to nurse for at least an hour (or more), better to take a break than to just scatter carrot seeds all over — and then beet seeds, basil seeds, and spinach seeds. Especially if you don’t know what these little sprouts will look like, and are then forced to wait for all sprouts to grow two inches or so — at which point, half your garden is thickly populated with grass. Did I mention that half my garden = about 175 square feet? That, folks, is a lot of grass. Next year, I foresee many more seedlings and not quite so many seeds in my future.

:: housework going out the window. No, really. I pick up, do laundry, cook, and occasionally vacuum. And every morning, I wake up telling myself that really, today needs to be cleaning day. But it’s summer! When I start to worry that I’ll never regain routine, I remind myself that autumn comes every year, and summer is only a season. In the meantime, I’m just trying to make sure that the boys have their teeth brushed before they head out to find their bikes — in their pajamas, crocs, and helmets, the ultimate summer uniform.

:: riding my new-to-me bike down the country road. Breathing deeply of clean, sweet country air. Stopping to fill my basket with cheerful little flowers. Catching the first glimpse of my very own house on my way back — and loving it.

bits and pieces

Two days ago, we collected our spades and rakes, hoes and edger, gloves and wheelbarrow, fertilizer and baseball bats, and we headed to the small corner chosen to be the vegetable patch. It’s a beginner’s sized patch — maybe 4×6? — and I’ll confess to a niggling fear that clever deer will outwit me and eat everything I manage to grow, but perhaps there will be a bit of success. Wouldn’t that be nice?

I sat right in the dirt, exhausted after an hour and half, and dug up sod, beat the dirt free of entangling roots, hurled the clump at the wheelbarrow, and dug up more sod. I thought of a dozen summers spent in just such a fashion, only I was but a girl then, in my mother’s garden. And now, now there were two boys playing beside me, and they are my boys. And this is my yard.

I looked up to see expanse of sky, meadows stretching into woods. I heard only wind and the song of birds. All over again, I was blessed. Do you know how many times I timidly hoped for a bit of space where I could grow things and watch my kids climb trees, pack paperbag lunches and send sons out to explore? No, you probably don’t know, but God knew.


Tonight, carmelized onion quiche. Don’t ask me why, but it popped into my head last week, and I haven’t been able to shake it. I haven’t even ever had it, but I want it. So I pull out 3 speckled brown eggs from the fridge, all different sizes, and I crack them into a bowl. Deeply golden. I know they’re just eggs, but it makes me happy.

Today we visited the chickens that lay those eggs, and also the lovely family who owns those chickens. Jameson ran happily out into the field, right into the midst of a herd of goats, never once slowing down or fearing. He climbed happily into the chicken coop, and then pushed his way through a barn of energetic kids — goat kids, that is. Tractors, horses, a pregnant kitty, a dog — he couldn’t get enough. We even spotted him sneaking into the bull’s pen. In a few years, I tell her, I’ll send him down to help out. Perhaps we can get some of that delicious raw goat milk in return?

He declared it to be “an awesome, awesome play time, Mama!”


I’m finding that all quiet moments lead to thoughts of Linda. Linda, the dear woman who lays 10 miles away in a hospital room. A hospital room where she’s dying of starvation and dehydration. I think of Psalm 18 — of a God of power and love who is stirred to action, who comes with clouds of darkness and thunder and who smites His enemies. A God who delivers, because He delights in us. And I ask. I ask Him to come and speak life.

One little word.

That’s all we need.

That’s all she needs.

some pics. but only some.

Both boys are napping, and I am sitting in quiet. This has not happened for over a week, thanks to the constant buzz of our current happenings. Can I just say: a bit of quiet in the afternoon is really nice.

Especially when the afternoon quiet occurs in a family room with panoramic views. From the comfort of my couch, I see golden fields, woods, farms on the other side of the river, and all of this hemmed in by the distant blue of the Adirondacks.


We’ve made progress, thanks to the cheerful and inspiring help of Liz, Mama, and many others. I finally found my camera, and then couldn’t find the cord thingy that moves pictures from camera to computer, but at last, it’s all in one spot. Now I’ll start putting up pictures. Here is today’s meager offering:

[before: kitchen]

Please note the drapery and wallpaper. A bit dark for my taste, although removing the drapery from these windows feels almost wrong. We’re talking yards and yards and yards of no-expense-spared window dressings. Mrs. Livingston did things right — but more on that another time!

[before: kitchen]

Please note the cupboards above the sink peninsula. That peninsula is not on my list of “things to keep”, but those cupboards literally made me cry. I literally couldn’t bend over the sink without hitting my forehead on them. (I think I’m perhaps a bit taller than this designer’s target demographic?)

before: family room]

Now, this room was built as a sunroom adjacent to the kitchen. It’s accessed by triple french doors, and has three walls of windows. I immediately envisioned a wider opening between the two rooms in order to create a fabulous kitchen/great room. Once again, the wallpaper here is just not doing it for me.

So, where we’re at currently:

[kitchen/family room: during]

With the drapes and the overhead cupboard gone, it’s already well on its way to being the bright, open kitchen I envisioned the first time I stepped into this house. How exciting!

[kitchen/family room: during]

Wallpaper: gone.

(Please note the adorable split-rail fence area, which will one day [read: 20 years from now!] be my dream vegetable garden. Also note the dusting of snow, which does not faze girls like me in the least bit. I’m from around here. Snow in March does not shock me.)

[kitchen/family room: during]

This is where Ryan and I will grow old together. You’re welcome to join us.

[kitchen/family room: during]

This is the view from the windows across from the fireplace, where I’ve put my new cherry drop-leaf table. Many a deer will be spotted from this precise location. (Possibly spotted and shot, if my father has his way. Can’t you just see him sitting at the table, with a cup of steaming tea, a fire blazing, and shotgun in hand, ready to throw open the window and take a shot? That’s city-boy hunting at its best.)

And of course, the most important part: adorable boys.

They like to play in their sunny new family room while I work in the kitchen:

And sometimes they wake up grumpy, but most of the time, this is the sort of company I have early in the morning:

The end.

(For more “before” shots, including our bedroom and Ryan’s office, go here. To keep up with the “during”, subscribe to my flickr stream!)

so far:

— two rooms stripped of paper
— books, toys, and furniture in family room
— kitchen cupboards full and ready for action
many window treatments taken down. oh, what light!
— beautiful corner carved out in front of windows: antique secretary, antique cherry table, a spray of [faux] pussy willow, antique linen placemats, and a fun mix of benches and chairs gathered round
— and many, many boxes emptied.

psalm of the day: 71.